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Consumer Gal: King of consumer complaints

by TERRI DICKERSON
| January 6, 2022 1:00 AM

According to calls coming into money expert Clark Howard’s Consumer Action Center, the No. 1 complaint in 2021 is the lost art of customer service.

With more people relying on online services and product ordering, those who have ever tried to contact a live person know how difficult it can be.

Online companies have mastered the art of making it easy for consumers to order their products or services online, which is great — until something goes wrong. In fact, many companies are increasingly relying on automated services to handle consumer calls.

Here are a few tips to ease frustration when contacting a company about an issue.

1) Try social media. See if the company has a social media account (like Facebook or Twitter). Companies are becoming more responsive on social media than on other venues.

2) Check out live chat. See if the website offers a live chat feature. This will allow you to correspond with a customer service representative in real-time.

This option has the added benefit of creating a written account, so print out your correspondence in case you need to escalate your complaint.

3) Check the website first. If you're having trouble with a device, see if the website has a troubleshooting/support section. This may help you solve the problem yourself without having to reach customer service.

4) Google your issue or check YouTube. Often, other users have had the same problem and may have posted a solution online.

When you need to contact the customer service department at a company, plan time for the call. Set aside at least half an hour.

Also, to speed things along, have important information ready. If you're calling about a product, have it in front of you so you can locate the serial, model or product number.

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KIDS AND CAR INSURANCE

If you're a parent of a teenager getting ready to drive or already driving, have you added them to your automobile insurance policy? A recent look at this issue by a Post Falls reader revealed some insight for parents.

If your child lives in your home, is a licensed driver and drives one of the family vehicles, the child should be added to your policy.

There's an exception to this rule: If your child isn't operating a vehicle on your insurance policy, has their own vehicle and their own auto insurance policy, then you don't need to add them to your policy.

For children who don't live in the household full-time, perhaps due to divorce, it's possible to add them on a part-time basis. However, check with your insurance carrier to understand the requirements.

The increase to your insurance premiums will be based on several factors including if your child is male, the value of the car they'll be driving, and whether or not they have a bad driving record.

In our reader’s experience, his insurance premium increased about 60% when he added his teenage son.

Not disclosing that your child needs to be added to your auto policy while allowing them to drive the vehicle would be considered fraud.

In addition, driving without insurance has many consequences including hefty fines, a license suspension or even jail time. New Hampshire and Virginia are the only states that allow you to drive legally without insurance.

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WHEN IS A SHOW NOT A SHOW?

Annual recreational vehicle shows in the past were fun to attend because they provided a chance to see new RV models and comparison shop between vendors to see who offered the best product at the best price all in one venue. It was also interesting to see all the features that could be crammed into those compact RV spaces.

But in the last two years, the concept of an RV show has changed. In the past, RV shows consisted of multiple dealers gathering in one venue, making it easy for consumers to view purchase options and negotiate with several vendors for the best price.

The last large-scale RV show in our area was held in early 2020; since then, the new model appears to be individual dealers holding their own "shows." Now a dealer usually moves inventory to a special location and simply promotes it as an RV show.

The problem is these “shows” have only one dealer, so inventory is limited, as is the opportunity to bargain with multiple dealers.

So if you're in the market for an RV, find out if an advertised show features multiple dealers. If not, you're just as well off visiting individual dealers.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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